Art: Love and War Stories Movie Poster
Characters/Pairing: Luke/Elle, Matt/Mohinder, implied past Luke/Mohinder, implied past Luke/Sylar, implied past Sylar/Elle, also includes Molly, Micah, Hiro, Ando, Monica, Eric Doyle, West, Alex, Peter, Nathan, Noah Bennet, Angela, Claire
Word Count: 31,880
Spoilers: Specifically up through 3x15 “Trust and Blood” and brings in some chosen canon elements up through 3x23 “1961.”
Warnings: Violence, sexual situations (see pairings and implied pairings), implied abuse, character death, and bogarting of canon.
Disclaimer: Heroes is owned by Tim Kring, NBC, et al.
Notes: Written for heroes_bigboom 2009. This a sequel to Killing with Kindness, and much of it won’t make sense unless you’ve read that story! Thanks to redandglenda, brighteyed_jill, and ashedrake for betaing.
Summary: After being rescued by Mohinder, Luke joins up with a group of rebels led by Peter Petrelli. Luke finds himself intrigued by another damaged rebel, Elle, as all the rebels struggle to free other specials, hide from the hunters, and keep themselves sane. But when an unexpected turn of events have things going from bad to worse, Peter realizes the rebels will have to enlist the help of the strongest special any of them knows. By making a deal with the devil, can the rebels stop the war and manage to keep themselves from turning into monsters? Can the rebels hold onto what's good in their lives throughout this time of war?
Luke thought he had things figured out when Mohinder went to talk to Matt. There was a definite possessiveness in the heavy guy’s demeanor, an air of “hands off, he’s mine” that Luke recognized from high school. So… Mohinder had been sleeping around, like he’d said. The old part of Luke told him, “Typical, you find something good and it turns out to be shit.” That brought the usual feelings of indifference covering jealousy and bitter disappointment.
But a new part of him pointed out Mohinder had warned him he was “with” Matt. And Mohinder had never declared his everlasting sole devotion to Luke, nor had he ever said he never wanted to see him again. As a matter of fact, Mohinder had explained, with as much patience and gentleness as he had displayed with Luke’s body, that Luke could come to him with any question, at any time. He’d said he’d wanted to show Luke real affection, and had meant every word about admiring Luke’s strength. And he’d carefully said he needed to talk with Matt about their relationship, and he wouldn’t hold anything back.
Luke swallowed hard. As difficult as it was, Luke decided to try to shelve his resentment and withhold judgment for a bit. But that wasn’t going to stop him from seeing who else was available, like Mohinder had obliquely suggested. Just in case. Despite being burned multiple times, Luke didn’t necessarily like being alone. And after learning that being with someone didn’t have to involve humiliation and pain, Luke was more than eager to expand his horizons.
He wasn’t precisely picky when it came to partners, but he knew what he liked. Luke had zero interest in the kids; he wasn’t some kind of sick molesting freak. The black girl, Monica, moved with a self-confidence that told him she would be the one to come to him, if she ever got interested. And she definitely wasn’t right now. Eric, the ugly older guy that everyone avoided, creeped Luke out. Not even if he was the last guy on earth, Luke promised himself.
West reminded him of some of the self-righteous assholes from his school, not to mention the fact that he seemed to be violently straight. Bet he’s one of those guys that ends up asking his girlfriend to tie him to the bed and begs to call her “Mommy,” Luke thought vindictively. Alex was just too damn normal to think of approaching. Luke didn’t do normal. The pretty guy, Peter, was a definite possibility. He looked like someone who wouldn’t mind it if things got a little rough. But since he was the leader, and that cut substantially down on his free time. Luke hated being interrupted.
That left the pretty blonde in the corner, the one who hadn’t bothered to introduce herself. Luke sidled around to size her up, somewhat amazed to see she was flawed with light pink burn scars on one hand, traveling up underneath her sleeve, and had a faint red line across her forehead. But other than that, she reminded him of the Homecoming Queen, long-haired, lithe, and beautiful. Usually too high a caliber for him, but anyone was worth a shot at this point.
She looked up at him, surprised. “Hey, new guy.”
“Luke,” he offered.
“Elle,” she said, scrutinizing him carefully. Her long hair was half hiding her face, and Luke could see more burn scars running up the side of her neck, mostly hidden by her hair and collar. But even though she was wearing a long-sleeved, high-collared suit, it didn’t leave a whole lot to the imagination. Luke wondered at why she was sitting alone. He sat without being invited, and her look turned to one of cat-like curiosity. “How’d you end up here? No one does unless everything’s fucked up.”
Luke was starting to like her already. So far she was full of at least fifty percent less bullshit than anyone he’d ever met.
“Got left behind,” Luke muttered, suddenly not sure he wanted to get into details. Yeah, that was bullshit too, but saying he’d been hanging out with a super-powered serial killer might not go over so well.
“Me too,” Elle said, her tone bitter. “Except the guy that did me cut me up and lit me on fire before splitting.”
For a half-second, Luke wondered if there was any possibility… No. No way it could have been Sylar. That would have been too easy.
“That sucks,” Luke commiserated. In a weird way, he wished Sylar had bothered to give him the same kind of closure. At least then they’d definitely be done.
“Yeah…” Elle trailed off, and Luke wondered if he could put a hand on her without her glaring at him.
At that moment the door banged open, and she jumped up in alarm, hands blazing with blue electricity.
That was the hottest thing he’d seen since Sylar. Luke suddenly developed a massive crush.
“Sorry!” the taller of the two men in the doorway called. “Wind.”
“Ando, don’t do that,” Matt said, color slowly returning to his face as he popped out of the side room.
“I said they were coming, but you weren’t listening!” Molly said indignantly.
Matt blushed a little as he shut the door, and everyone seemed to ease down from DEFCON 4.
“Hiro, Ando,” Peter said, coming up to greet them. “Good to have you back.”
“Sorry about that, Molly,” Matt said in apology. He had Mohinder had been so deep in their own conversation that he actually hadn’t heard her, and that wasn’t just dangerous for the rebels, that was incredibly rude. Molly would have worked herself to the bone to keep everyone here safe, and it was Matt’s job to make sure she didn’t. If he didn’t make her rest, she wouldn’t.
“We had to talk about some things,” Mohinder added carefully, sitting down in a chair behind her. He picked up her atlas without being asked, and spread it out on his lap for her to see, like he had with her homework back when they’d been a strange little family.
“Are things ok?” she asked, anxiously peering at both of them.
“Yes, sweetheart” Mohinder said instantly, putting an arm around her. Matt leaned forward to encircle them both with his arms, hugging hard.
Being such close friends with Micah, he and Molly talked a lot, having forged a bond with their desire to help, their unflappable purpose… and the fact they were both orphans. Micah at least had Monica, and had other family out there too. Molly just had Matt and Mohinder, and she couldn’t stand to lose either of them. With Mohinder gone for so long, even after she’d wrangled her way back to the States, Matt knew she’d been thinking the worst, that their little family was gone.
“We’re ok. We’re together, and we’re not leaving you,” Matt promised, and felt matching surges of relief and love from both of them.
Peter ran a hand through his hair nervously, on one hand happy he had all the rebels back under one roof, and on the other nervous for the same reason. He knew it was dangerous to put all his eggs in one basket, but was just paranoid enough to worry when his people were out of sight. The first week had been brutal in trying to get all of the disparate personalities to mesh, and the second week only marginally less so.
But if Peter had learned anything from the past two years, it was that the things about himself he’d always been told were weaknesses, his empathy, his compassion, his tendency to take the weight of the world on his shoulders, could become strengths. Nathan would have tried to charm or overwhelm everyone; Peter wanted to make sure he understood everyone. And no, the effect wasn’t as fast as when Nathan turned on his snake-oil salesman routine full-blast, but Peter thought that it would last longer. He might worry about his people’s safety, but he didn’t worry too much about getting backstabbed.
“The place is secure,” Hiro was saying, handing Peter an address. “They were happy to get the work. They seemed, um… to have done it before?”
Peter smiled. Hiro might have not liked acting like a businessman, but he could pull it off very well when he wanted to, particularly when Ando was willing to act like a translator and lackey. And as a businessman, Hiro could legitimately buy property, particularly if he looked like a slightly shady businessman who dealt only in cash. Anyone who would buy from him wouldn’t be recording his face and reporting it to the government.
“Survivalists,” Peter explained. “They’re big in Montana. Outfitting a bunker for a dozen people is probably something they do every month.”
That bunker would be their back-up shelter in case the hunters found this one. Effectively, they had a bolthole, and Peter heaved a mental sigh of relief. That lifted a huge weight off his shoulders. If everything went badly today, at least some of them would be able to escape.
“Ah,” Hiro said, still not looking like he quite got it, and shrugged.
“Don’t worry about it,” Peter said, and took a deep breath. “Micah just got the latest intelligence. We have a convoy to raid.”
Hiro perked up at that as Peter waved the rest of the rebels over. This would be their fifth convoy raid, and their first since Mohinder had returned. This time, the odds would be more in their favor.
Luke settled in his chair at the back of the room as Peter called the group together, laying out maps and pictures on the table with grim-faced purpose. Everyone else was hovering around the table, with the sole exception of Elle, and Luke didn’t want to look overeager or uncool to her.
“The specials are being held in this convoy, all four of them,” Peter said, pointing at the satellite pictures of a line of heavily-armored cars and trucks. “They’ll have to stop once Mohinder and I block the road, but that’ll put them on alert. Once the convoy stops, Elle and I will distract the front vehicles with Mohinder. Micah, there’s almost no electronic coverage on that road for you, so Matt, I’m going to need you to check for nasty surprises. Eric, you’ll have the guards on the truck itself. Alex, West, and Monica, you’ll be on extraction after helping Eric. Hiro and Ando, we need you back here to get everyone out in case someone doubles back to the safe house. Micah and Molly, keep us up-to-date in case anyone gets a message out, ok?”
Luke usually didn’t care for team sports, and in the normal course of things he didn’t give a shit about other people, but Mohinder and Elle would be out there during this raid, and Luke had had his fill of being left behind.
“Hey, what am I supposed to do?” he asked.
Peter looked at him oddly. Not badly, not like he thought Luke was an idiot for even asking, more like he hadn’t expected Luke to volunteer. At all. “Well, what can you do?”
“It’s uh… like microwaves,” Luke stammered. He hadn’t actually thought about what he’d be doing during this thing.
Peter smiled in satisfaction, and glanced over at Elle and Mohinder briefly. “I want you to go after the electronic and computer equipment in the vehicles. Fry everything you can so it takes them longer to regroup. That’ll make this go a hell of a lot faster if we don’t have to keep checking our backtrail.”
“Blow shit up? There,” Luke said, feeling satisfied. Mohinder snuck a glance at Luke, as if he’d expected Luke to object, or at least to want to help take out the guards. And honestly, Luke did, but he wasn’t going to say so out loud. He could at least try to spare himself the “psycho” label as long as possible. Here he could just… help where it was needed. Maybe he’d impress Elle…
“He’s so calm he’s scaring me,” Mohinder muttered, strapping his bulletproof vest tightly, watching Luke fumble with the straps until Elle came over to help him. “Or he could be scared to death inside. I just don’t know.”
“He’s not thinking about being scared right now.” Matt paused and slid a sideways glance over to Luke. “He could go either way, you know. If he decides to go back to Sylar, we have a problem.”
“I understand-,” Mohinder started defensively. How could Matt think Luke would go back to that killer, after what he’d told him?
“Mohinder, I don’t think you do. Elle is here, you’re here, Molly, Peter, and Hiro are here; it’s like a rogue’s gallery of people Sylar wants to kill if Luke ends up deciding he can’t handle being a rebel and goes back to what he understands. And then there’s Ando…”
Mohinder blinked in confusion at the apparent non sequitur. “I could understand Sylar wanting to go after Hiro, but why would he want to kill Ando?”
“Daphne… Daphne took one of the vials of the formula before Pinehurst blew up. Ando took it, trying to get Hiro’s power-.”
“What?!” Mohinder broke in, confused beyond all reason and measure.
“This’ll take too long to explain. Hang on.”
Mohinder gasped as Matt practically dumped the information into his head. It took a moment or two, but finally things became clear, like how one knew something in a dream. Hiro trapped in the past with Claire, Ando’s new power allowing Daphne to travel in time…
Mohinder’s mind skittered over the knowledge of Daphne’s death, the loss of Hiro’s powers, and him and Ando joining the resistance, thinking they could be useful…
“Supercharging,” Mohinder breathed, glanced over at Luke, and shuddered. “If Sylar knew about that-.”
“Forget the rest of us; he’d be unstoppable. I know you want Luke to trust us, and yeah, I know he’s been lied to a lot, but if anything happens and he decides to go back-.”
“I’ll keep quiet.” Mohinder swallowed hard. “But I don’t want him to go back. I think it would kill him.”
“Then let’s make sure he never has to. Head in the game, Mo, you’re our star linebacker,” Matt said, smiling briefly.
“Right,” Mohinder whispered.
Luke found himself traveling with Peter, Mohinder, and Elle to the raid site, a more or less perfect deal as far as he was concerned. Even though Peter was in charge of their little group, he couldn’t dampen Luke’s spirits.
Peter, on the other hand, was grim-faced and tense as he parked the car well off the road. He and Mohinder trekked back up the road, searching for a good-sized tree, trailed by Elle and Luke. Once they’d found a suitable behemoth, they waited beside it, glancing down the road nervously. The dark, pine-scented air under the trees was quiet save for a few animal noises and their breathing. While they waited, Mohinder whispered the plan to Luke, not just what he was going to do, but the others too. Privately, Luke was pretty impressed at how Peter was having everyone use their powers together, considering the freak show he’d gathered together.
“Luke,” Peter said, breaking into Mohinder’s explanation. “If things get bad and you have to use your power on someone, we only have one rule: don’t kill. We don’t want the government to think we’re any more dangerous than they already do, and we definitely don’t want them to make martyrs out of the hunters. Remember, these men have families too; they’re just doing their jobs.”
Luke suddenly remembered Agent Simmons’ shocked face when he’d been collapsing to the floor, cooking in his own juices as Luke fried him from the inside out. It had been the most powerful thing Luke had ever felt in his life. Maybe he wouldn’t tell Peter about that. Ever.
Ahead of them, the second group of rebels was hiding in the woods, ready to take out the van the instant it stopped. West was already flying above, feeding information to Micah about the convoy’s location, as Monica and Alex waited nervously under the cover of low-hanging pine braches. Unlike Matt and Eric, they’d have to confront any problems with their bodies, rather than their minds. The brunt of any mistakes would be theirs to bear
Their communicators crackled, and Micah’s voice was suddenly in their ear. “They’re close, two minutes!”
Peter reached out and touched Mohinder’s hand, a flare of dull orange light showing he was borrowing the scientist’s power. As one, the two turned and slammed into their chosen tree. Two, three, four, five ground-shuddering hits, and the huge pine toppled over the road, blocking the way.
Peter grinned as Mohinder darted back into cover by Luke, brushing bits of pine bark out of his hair and clothes. Elle high-fived Peter, giving her power to him, and both stepped out into the road behind the tree, hands sparking. Luke felt his breathing getting harder as he waited with Mohinder. He hadn’t done anything like this since he’d been with Sylar, and he shivered in anticipation. And maybe a few other things. Seeing everyone using their powers so openly, and with such confidence, was tickling him in all the right places.
“Steady,” Mohinder murmured in his ear. “Check your targets. Be safe.”
Luke snorted at the last comment; the rebels were about to take on an armed prison convoy. Safe was not on the menu.
“They’re thirty seconds away. West, come down now,” Micah whispered. Somewhere down the road, the flyer was making his descent. “I’m blind now, handing over to Matt.”
“Everyone else move up. Peter, Elle, now!” Matt shouted over the comm.
Luke could hear the sounds of the engines for a brief second before Peter and Elle went into action. Lightning crashed all over the road, illuminating the place as bright as day. Screeching brakes signaled the convoy’s halt, and angry shouts announced the hunters’ advance. Muffled whumps sounded from the hunters’ rifles, but being unable to see Peter and Elle meant their shots went wide.
“I’ll be back,” Mohinder said quietly, and rushed out of hiding, springing into the glare like a leopard.
Luke couldn’t see anything, but from the shouts of pain and dismay, things were not going so great for the bad guys. Since no one was watching him, Luke pulled his teeth back in a feral smile and tried very hard not to light the grass on fire. He’d get his chance in a second.
Matt and Eric watched from the shadows as the remaining guards, only twelve this time, re-deployed to guard the prison truck. Matt concentrated on them fiercely, inserting the insistent thought that, We’re not here. There’s no one here. The woods are empty, but stay on guard, stay here, there’s no one here… He sighed in relief when the hunters’ gazes slid off Monica and Alex as they emerged from cover.
Monica quickly palmed the key off one of the oblivious commandos, and tossed it to Alex. Alex’s ability was completely useless nine times out of ten on these raids, but he was tall, strong, fast, and had plenty of endurance. That more than made up for his limited power. He was one of the only ones who could keep up with Monica on an extended chase. Alex reached the door at the same time as West touched down on the roof. Nodding at Monica, Alex opened the door, and Eric stepped forward to take care of the guards inside.
Matt’s power would let him hide people in plain sight, amongst other things, but he could only hold so many minds at once. He was also the one who would be searching the woods for active minds, making sure they didn’t get outflanked. The rebels had found it was best to save his strength and attention for the most important things, relying on any other powers they had to help them instead.
As the door swung open, Eric Doyle stepped forward, putting his hands up. The four soldiers inside suddenly imitated his motion, and Eric smiled his creepy little smile. Matt had never looked into Eric’s mind farther than necessary to make sure he wasn’t lying. He never wanted to look deeper. He prayed to God he’d never have to.
In synch, the soldiers bent and placed their hands on the shackles each prisoner was wearing. After a couple of raids, the hunters had started to use biometric locks on the cuffs in an effort to thwart the rebels. While Mohinder could have pulled the cuffs apart, or Matt could have convinced the hunters to unlock the cuffs, or the rebels could have knocked the hunters unconscious and placed their hands on the locks, that took valuable time. Matt and Mohinder’s talents were needed elsewhere in the raids; better to have Eric make the hunters free the captives themselves. It was faster and safer, even if watching Eric Doyle in action gave Matt a chill down his spine.
Monica and Alex moved in immediately, removing the captives’ drug harnesses and getting them out. This time the captives consisted of a middle-aged woman, two college-aged men, and a twelve year-old girl.
“I got the kid,” West said instantly. He jumped down and gathered her up, floating skyward without a second glance. Matt privately sighed, but didn’t say anything. West was all about destroying the system, but wouldn’t put himself into too much trouble to do it. The guy wasn’t exactly a coward but…
Monica and Alex started moving the other three, still groggy from the sedative, into protective cover. They’d hustle the group through the woods to where Alex had hidden a vehicle, and hopefully have the former prisoners well away from here by the time the sun rose.
Still smiling his superior little smile, Eric had the guards cuff themselves into the van, and then locked the door from the outside so he wouldn’t have to listen to their yelling once his power was released.
Matt reinforced the notion that no one was there to the other guards as Eric made his escape, and then faded into the brush behind him. Hopefully he’d be able to hold their minds while Peter and the others finished doing their jobs. Then it would be up to Peter, Elle, and Mohinder to take these men down while Matt and Eric escaped.
“We’re clear! Trash the gear!” Matt’s voice sounded over the comm. Luke started to move out of cover, hands already warm, eager to destroy.
Peter and Elle stopped their lightning display, revealing a half-dozen fallen hunters, and standing amongst them, Mohinder.
“Luke, come on!” Mohinder said, gesturing to him. Luke ran out of hiding as Peter and Elle moved around behind the front vehicle. The lightning display started up again on the other side, to shouts of surprise.
“I have to go help them. Just destroy everything you can,” Mohinder urged, and went to join the electro-brigade.
Luke took a look inside the car, seeing consoles full of winking lights, GPS units, computers, and who-the-hell knew what else. Grinning a bit, he let the heat come bursting out of his hands and aimed them at the shiniest, most expensive-looking things he could find. Plastic melted and ran as he swept his hands over the gear, the black and gray ooze dripping to the floor with fleshy little slaps. In less than five minutes the inside of the truck was a total wreck.
Popping his head out, Mohinder was there, one side of his face wet with blood. Grimacing, he waved Luke out of the car.
“The other car, and the van, then we’re done. Duck!”
Luke fell flat to the ground as Mohinder lunged as a hunter that had popped up behind him, wrestling him to the ground with brutal efficiency. “Luke, go!”
Electricity crashed through the clearing as Peter and Elle tried to deal with the rapidly falling number of hunters Matt had left behind. With the element of surprise against them, the hunters weren’t going to get the upper hand this time. Or at least Luke hoped so. Everyone seemed to be kicking ass as he dashed across the road to the truck and threw himself inside the cab. He quickly played his hands over the console, reducing it to steaming mush, trying to ignore the light show outside.
A thrown body smashed into the windshield, making Luke start and bring his hands up defensively. The semi-conscious hunter screamed as Luke’s microwaves pulsed right through the glass, and Luke abruptly remembered Peter’s admonition. Pulling his power in, he leapt from the truck and ran for the last car, melting the contents in less than thirty seconds. As he turned from the last car, a grin of triumph on his face, Mohinder found him.
“Yeah, everything’s fried and-.” Luke suddenly screamed as a burning pain scorched his leg. One of the hunters had gotten a lucky shot off, and the shock of it sent Luke to his knees. Mohinder turned and lunged for the man, grabbing him by the vest and hurling him into the trees. Actually through some of the trees, Luke noted through the haze of pain. After that, everything got very quiet.
“Peter! Peter we need you!” Mohinder called. “Luke, stay still, Peter’s on his way.”
Luke twisted around, saw blood covering the back of his thigh, and almost threw up.
Peter came running through the trees moments later, Elle on his heels, both of their hands illuminating the road with blue electricity. Seeing the blood, Peter dropped the charge and reached inside his jacket, pulling out what looked like bandages.
“Luke, what happened?”
“I dunno! One of them shot me-,” Luke gasped, trying to keep still as Peter bent over him. While most of him was freaking out over the pain, there was still a part of him that was thinking that at least Sylar hadn’t ever gotten him shot. Beaten, fucked raw, smacked around, but not shot…
“That’s not a dart wound. Damn it,” Peter muttered, trying to clear away the blood with practiced professionalism. He reminded Luke strongly of some of the ER nurses that used to patch him up after childhood “accidents.”
“They’ve started using live rounds?” Mohinder asked, sounding aghast.
“We’re running out of time,” Peter said under his breath, and seemingly to himself. Luke tried to keep himself from getting sick as Peter wrapped a bandage around his leg to stop the bleeding, biting his lip to keep from crying out. “Luke, this isn’t too bad, it’s only a flesh wound, but I don’t want you to put any weight on it. Elle?”
Luke wanted to crawl into a hole and die as she moved up next to him. He’d wanted to impress her, not get shot and have to bleed on her!
“C’mon, tiger,” Elle said, getting under his shoulder on his bad side. “Everyone gets shot at least once.”
Luke tried to smile a bit at her as she helped lever him up, and felt the blood roar in his ears. The world went black around him as he abruptly passed out.
Luke woke up staring at a cracked and water-stained ceiling, feeling cold, tired, and his leg aching like a sonofabitch.
Luke jerked to the side to see Elle sitting in a chair next to his bed, reading a crumpled magazine. He flushed when he realized he was not in the clothes he’d worn to the raid. And while being only in boxers and a t-shirt with a hot blonde by his bedside had been the start of some great daydreams, his daydreams had never included wishing he could just chop off his leg to stop it hurting so much.
“Ow,” Luke said, gritting his teeth. Yeah, that’s just fucking brilliant, Campbell. Sure to get all the hot ladies and dudes to your room. Bleed over them and then whine like a bitch.
Elle gave him a slightly twisted smile and suddenly leaned over the bed, her hands on either side of his shoulders, her breasts pressed right against him. Leaning down close enough to practically be breathing his air, she brushed her lips against his. Luke could barely breathe. He hadn’t even had daydreams about something like this before… And then she shocked him, sparks leaping from her lips to his.
“Hey!” Luke yelled in protest, and Elle pulled back, giggling madly, swinging her hair back in front of her face..
“I bet your leg doesn’t hurt so much right now, does it?” she asked.
Well, it didn’t, but-.
“Elle!” Peter said sharply, pushing open the door to the room.
“I know, I know, don’t play with my food,” Elle said, rolling her eyes with the air of someone who’d heard the same speech too many times before.
“Please,” Peter said, a note of genuine pleading in his voice. Luke noticed Peter had the most egregious “puppy eyes” expression he’d ever seen.
Elle softened slightly, not immune to a heretofore-unknown Peter power. “Ok, fine.”
“Hey, Luke, I need to change your bandages. Is it ok if Elle helps?”
Luke glared at Peter. He couldn’t possibly be serious. Luke had a gunshot wound to his thigh and Peter wanted to have Elle put her hands on him? Was he insane?
“Better not,” Elle opined, not even trying to hide a grin. “I’d hate to get the bandages all sticky.”
Luke watched her leave, and then glared at Peter relentlessly until he cracked.
“You’re a dick, you know that?” Luke said in irritation.
“Sorry. I’m not trying to be,” Peter repeated, sounding sincere, and pulled out bandages and bottles from a bag he’d brought in with him.
Gingerly Luke turned himself over, hissing in pain. He hated the idea of a near-stranger trying to clean out a wound in such a vulnerable place, but he was reasonably sure Peter wouldn’t hurt him. Not like Sylar. Sylar would have either left him to die, or hauled him along and made him tend his wounds by himself. Peter was actually trying to help him. Besides, if Peter did one damn thing Luke didn’t like, he could fry him. And they both knew it. That kept things the most equal Luke had ever had.
“You’re the first person Elle’s said more than two sentences to in two weeks,” Peter said.
Luke grunted noncommittally as Peter carefully pulled off the old bandage, and then hissed as some stinging liquid hit the wound.
“She’s barely even recovered. She shouldn’t even be alive, but she is. She hadn’t really talked to anyone until you showed up four days ago.”
“Four days?” Luke asked incredulously.
“You’ve been out for a day. You really just got grazed, but it was deep. You lost some blood. You’ll be fine, I promise,” Peter said, and taped new bandages in place. “All done.” Luke waited, tensing just in case, but Peter hadn’t touched a single patch of skin he hadn’t needed to. When he heard Peter moving away again, he relaxed a hair.
Luke carefully rolled over, and saw Peter taking off latex gloves. He was so confused he didn’t even know where to start. He had a hot blonde, damaged and scarred, that seemed to like him enough to come out of her shell. He’d gotten shot, and was getting better care now than he ever had for any other injury in his life. And the leader of the resistance was waiting on him hand and foot.
“Luke, I’m sorry. I had no idea things had gotten that bad. With the hunters,” Peter clarified, with a hangdog expression. “I don’t know when they switched from darts to bullets, and we should have been more careful in making sure they were all down.”
Luke wasn’t used to have people apologizing to him. At all. He wasn’t even quite sure what to say. “It’s ok. I mean, you didn’t know, like you said.”
“I just didn’t want you to think I was taking you for granted. This is a volunteer outfit,” Peter said with a crooked smile, seeming to be relieved that Luke wasn’t mad. Luke shrugged at that; what other choice did he have, really?
“Hey, uh, about Elle…”
“She’s really only talked to me?”
“I think she likes you,” Peter said.
Luke took a deep breath. “If, if she’s still around-.”
“Luke, she was waiting for you to wake up. I’ve never seen her do that for anyone,” Peter broke in abruptly. “I’ll tell her I’m done. Don’t try to put weight on that leg yet, ok?”
Luke waited until Peter had left the room, then frantically ran his hands through his hair to try to make it look like something other than bed-head. Just when he’d barely finished, the door opened again, and Elle slipped inside, shutting it behind her.
“Hey, tiger,” she said, smiling, and Luke’s stomach flipped over.
“Hey,” Luke said. Flailing around for another topic of conversation, he got out, “Sorry for bleeding on you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, moving her chair just that much closer to his bed. “I got shot about the same place once; really can’t help bleeding on someone.”
“How?” Luke asked, fascinated.
Elle bent her head a bit so her hair hid most of the burn scars on the side of her face, and looked at the floor. Luke could see her back heaving, like she was trying to draw in a steadying breath. Impulsively, Luke let his bare arms turn over, exposing the silvery scars from cigarettes and broken bottles. Elle looked up at them, at him, and put a hand on his arm. Her fingers looked so small, and they felt painfully warm and good on his skin.
“How about I tell you about something else instead?” she asked, with just a tiny hint of pleading.
“Sure,” Luke said instantly. “Anything.”
Peter pressed his the back of his head against the wall outside Luke’s room, overhearing the indistinct rumble of the two voices inside rising and falling. He wasn’t used to this; wasn’t used to having a dozen people around him, looking up to him to lead. He’d taken on the role because he felt he had to, and he remembered warning the others that they’d finding themselves doing things they couldn’t even imagine.
Well, Peter couldn’t have imagined he’d ever be playing matchmaker. But…
“Ah, young love.” Peter turned to find Eric Doyle just emerging from the common room.
Before Peter could open his mouth, Eric continued, “They really deserve each other, crazy kids.”
Well, Peter had been thinking about the same thing but… Eric just smiled a bit in his direction and slipped into his room.
Your approval fills me with shame, Peter thought, trying to shake off the skeevy feeling. He might not like Eric, but it didn’t necessary follow that he was wrong about everything.
“Yeah, and then he said, ‘I don’t think so chickpea!’” Elle was saying, illustrating her story with a sweep of her sparking hand.
“And you fried him?” Luke asked, laughing.
“Just a little. I didn’t want to make much of a mess,” Elle promised, winking at him.
Luke laughed again, covering his mouth with his hand to keep from waking anyone up. It was almost a week after the raid, and Elle hadn’t missed a day with him. And while she hadn’t repeated that initial little shock-hug she’d done the first day (much to Luke’s profound disappointment), it was just nice to have someone to hang around with and talk to. Luke hadn’t had a friend in… never. And from what Elle had said, she hadn’t either.
“You’re the only person here who doesn’t start freaking out when I talk. I swear, it seems like everyone here is afraid I’m going to accidentally electrocute them. I haven’t done that in over ten years, honestly! Besides, you say what you mean,” she’d said to him at one point.
Luke didn’t feel like he had to hold much back when he talked with her; Elle wasn’t scared of using her powers, didn’t mind a little violence, and had little tolerance for bullshit. She hadn’t been shocked by anything he’d said, not even the things he hadn’t told anyone else but Sylar before.
He’d honestly begun to wonder if he could tell her about Sylar. Maybe she’d understand. She might be the only one who would. Mohinder knew about Sylar, but Luke didn’t think he understood. Yeah, Sylar had been a violent, abusive son of a bitch, but Luke had gone with him willingly for a reason. Elle might understand; she talked about the “Company” where she’d grown up in the same way.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door, breaking the moment, and Luke and Elle looked up warily. Mohinder poked his head in, and smiled slightly at the both of them.
“Elle, sorry, Peter and Hiro wanted to talk to you.”
Elle rolled her eyes and tossed a grin at Luke. “I’ll catch you later, tiger.”
“Later,” Luke said, watching her until she was completely out the door.
“Are you doing all right?” Mohinder asked, and Luke shook his head, shifting his attention.
“Yeah, I’m ok,” Luke said with a shrug. His leg was still painful and stiff, but it seemed to be healing cleanly. Peter really seemed to know his stuff.
“Luke, I need to talk to you about Sylar,” Mohinder said, sitting down in the corner by Luke.
“What about him?” Luke asked warily, trying to cover a start. This was the first time since they’d come here that Mohinder had even mentioned Sylar’s name.
“A lot of people here have suffered at his hands, and I wanted you to know before you talk about him,” Mohinder started. “I know you’ve been talking with Elle, becoming friends with her. That’s fine,” Mohinder hastened to add, when Luke almost broke in with angry protest. “But she’s had a lot of bad experiences in her life, and I don’t think you want to inadvertently bring up something painful, right?”
Luke nodded slowly and reluctantly, and Mohinder took a deep breath. He looked almost scared.
“Sylar has hurt a great deal of people very badly. He killed Elle’s father, betrayed her, cut and burned her and left her for dead.” Luke looked over at the door where Elle had left, and swallowed hard. “Sylar has tried to kill almost every single person in this building, some of them more than once. And he’s killed over two dozen other people for either their powers, or because they were in his way.”
Luke remained silent, trying to take it all in, his face a total blank.
“You knew him,” Luke accused. How could Mohinder not have known Sylar if he’d been so concerned with “cleaning up Sylar’s mess” when they first met?
Mohinder looked away. “I was trying to warn other people with abilities about Sylar. He got to one of the people just before I did, and pretended he was one of his victims, Zane Taylor, a musician. We traveled together for nearly a week to visit another special in Montana. And for that time he managed to conceal his true identity from me. We… became friends. Then he killed the woman we’d come to see, and I realized who he really was.”
Bitterness seeped into Mohinder voice, and he had to look away for a moment. Luke waited, unmoving, until Mohinder looked at him again.
“Dude, that had to suck,” Luke offered finally.
Mohinder didn’t laugh. “It did.”
“Luke, wake up!”
Luke flailed out of sleep, blinking as Monica turned on the light.
“Get your clothes on fast, we have to go, now!”
Fear gave him an instant adrenaline shot more effective than any can of energy drink. Grabbing for his clothes, Luke struggled into them as fast as he could, trying to not put too much weight on his injured leg.
“What happened?” Luke yelled.
“The hunters are coming,” Monica called back, running down the hall. He heard her rousing Micah and Molly out of bed, and then cursing the power cords as she quickly disassembled the computers. With a start, Luke remembered they were the only four rebels home. Everyone else was out on another raid, with Monica and Luke staying behind to keep the kids safe. Luke still couldn’t run; that’s why Peter had suggested he should stay behind, a perfectly reasonable suggestion at the time, and one that had netted him a smoking hot “good-bye” kiss from Elle.
Elle. Oh fuck.
“What about the others?” Luke called, rapidly tying his shoes and limping out into the main room.
“They’re ok, they just can’t get to us in time. They’ll meet us at the new safe house,” Monica said. “Grab those two laptops, here’re the car keys, go out the back door, move!”
Any protests Luke had died on his tongue when he saw Micah and Molly breaking down Micah’s computer station with a calm efficiency that spoke of practice. Those kids had practice in running from people that wanted to kill them. That was fucked up, even by Luke’s standards. Limping at top speed, Luke burst out the back door and opened up the car. Monica and the kids were out a few agonizingly long minutes later, and Luke all but burned rubber getting the car down the road.
“Just make sure we don’t get pulled over, and head north,” Monica said, tightening her seatbelt. “Everyone still alive back there?”
“Yup!” Molly said, a trifle too cheerfully, at least by Luke’s estimation.
“They’re pulling up on the hill away from the base,” Micah reported, his laptop already open again, checking the feeds from the security cameras all over the property. “They’re pulling out… What the heck is that?”
Monica twisted around in her seat to look at something on the screen, and Luke heard her gasp in shock. “Rocket!”
The entire sky lit up, and in his rearview mirror Luke could see the hotel go up in a Hollywood-style fireball. The shockwave hit a split-second later, making the entire car shiver, and Luke nailed the gas pedal to the floor. Whether or not the police would catch them was completely irrelevant to the fact that they could have been blown to bits without even a single word of warning.
“Oh God, oh God…” Luke chanted softly, forcing his attention back to the road.
“Peter!” Monica almost shouted into her cell phone. “They blew it up. No warning, no raid, nothing, they just blew up the entire place. Yes, we’re ok. We’re heading to the secondary site. You better get here fast!”
She clicked the phone shut and Luke could hear her shudder.
“There’s enough gas to get us there without refueling. Whatever you do, don’t stop,” Monica whispered, and pulled out a map.
Looking in the rearview mirror at the kids, and still seeing the flames reaching up into the sky, Luke swallowed hard. No one had ever entrusted him with something, or someone, so important. Knuckles white on the steering wheel, he pushed on into the night.
“Turn off here,” Monica said, pointing the way into the trees, lit by now in the pre-dawn gray light. They’d driven all the way through the night, and with the car on its last gasp of gas, Luke parked in a grove in the middle of the frozen woods, beneath a lean-to of corrugated metal. They were all the way in Montana now, and to his shock, snow had already fallen here. It was scarcely fall, and even though they were going north, Luke hadn’t expected to see the whole area under a blanket of white.
“Ok, half-mile through the woods, into the bunker, and we’re home free,” Monica said, still grim-faced. “We can take it easy, just as long as we don’t do anything to draw attention to ourselves-.”
“We have to move fast,” Molly said suddenly, a faraway look in her eye. “Mr. Danko’s coming.”
“What?!” Monica didn’t quite yell, but Luke would have totally understood if she did. “Danko” was a name he’d heard bantered around a few times; he was the leader of the hunters, and a total cold-hearted son of a bitch, if the rumors were anything to go by.
“He’s up high… in a helicopter. Coming this way,” Molly said positively.
Luke looked behind him. The car was pretty much hidden from above, but if the hunters had infrared or something, it wouldn’t matter how thick the woods were. Four running rebels would be easy targets. The carnage from the safe house was still fresh in his mind.
“Run!” Luke shouted, and began to limp at his fastest pace. Monica didn’t even hesitate, just hurled herself under one arm and began to half-drag him along far faster than he could have managed on his own. Micah and Molly were scampering through the woods as if they were homing pigeons, without even a glance at Monica’s map.
The woods flew past in a blur of black and white, of skeletal trees and glittering ice. Luke’s shoes and pant cuffs were soaked in no time. He had a huge stitch in his side, and was wheezing like he was about to collapse, but didn’t beg for a break. Just because he couldn’t hear the helicopter didn’t mean it wasn’t close.
“There! There!” Micah said, pointing to what looked like a snowbank with a small, cave-like opening in the front. He didn’t even hesitate, just crashed right through the snow, Molly on his heels, Monica and Luke right behind. Inside, it was a tunnel that sloped down to a heavy metal door, half-buried in snow-and-ice-covered mounds of earth. There was a small metal box on the wall that Micah grabbed with both hands, eyes closed as he tried to use his powers.
There was a weird whining noise, like overworked machinery, and then nothing.
“The motor can’t move the door!” Micah said, sounding horrified.
Luke shoved away from Monica, and dropped to his knees in front of the rock-hard frozen dirt. If they didn’t get under cover now, they were either going to get shot, or freeze to death. Luke had no intention of doing either.
“Get back, everyone get back!” he said, and pushed his hands over the earth. Hoping the earth and snow above would hide the heat of what he was about to do, Luke pulsed a double blast of microwaves into the ground. He jerked back when the snow and ice turned to steam, cursing when it scalded his face. Micah leapt for the box again, and this time the door shoved the thawed earth aside. Everyone tumbled in, and the door swung closed behind them.
They lay panting in the darkness for long minutes until someone found the lights. Blinking in the brightness, Luke shoved himself halfway up, and then flopped down again. His leg hurt so badly he didn’t even want to think about moving.
“Mr. Danko’s above,” Molly whispered, as if talking too loudly would call attention to themselves. “Circling. Circling.”
Everyone waited in tense and painful silence for long minutes. Monica was holding on to Luke’s shoulder, and Micah had her other arm. Molly held onto him as she kept her mental eye focused above them. It seems like almost an hour before Molly finally relaxed.
“He’s gone,” she said softly. Everyone sagged against each other in boneless relief.